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Megan Washington


f they’re honest, every poet, novelist and songwriter will divulge how it’s done. To write a decent story, you’ll have to pluck, plagiarise and plunder events from real life, before contorting the facts to make even better tales. “That’s the thing about being a writer,” Megan Washington says. “You get to rewrite history, and in doing so, you get to rewrite your life.” Looking back, it’s how she wrote her debut – the ARIA Award-winning, anthem-filled platinum debut I Believe You Liar (2010) – and its follow-up, the majestically sorrow-filled mini-album Insomnia (2011).

On her second full-length album, There There, Megan has taken a different approach. The 14 songs on the album – inspired by lush new-romantic ‘80s pop (think: Talk Talk, Tears for Fears, 10cc) – might be as infectious as ever, but lyrically stick to the truth. As Megan explains, every song is a real story, and every lyric is about someone real. “In my mind, every single one of these songs has a name in brackets afterwards,” she says. “The people in the songs know who they are. I certainly do.”

Spanning synth-woven dance shuffles (‘Get Happy’, ‘My Heart is A Wheel’, ‘Limitless’), soaring emotional bruisers (‘Who Are You?’, ‘Yellow and Blue’, ‘Skyline’) and stripped-back piano ballads (‘Begin Again’, ‘To Or Not Let Go’, ‘One For Sorrow’, ‘Valentine’), There There is an album of leather jackets, blood-red lipstick, pastel hair and fluorescent swatches. At the same time, it’s also a bold showcase of newfound emotional depth. If I Believe You Liar was the diary of a wide-eyed youth dizzy with romance, There There is the chronicle of a woman discovering the moral complexities of love – with hooks to spare.

After touring I Believe You Liar, starring in a film (Michael Kantor’s The Boy Castaways) and a stint in New York, Megan found herself in London. One day, by chance, she ran into songwriter/bassist/producer Sam Dixon (Sia, Adele), who she’d met when supporting Sia on tour. For kicks, the two co-wrote a song, and immediately felt something special was there. After returning to London in 2013, Megan and Sam got to work. Every morning, Megan caught the overground to Kensal Rise, walked to Sam’s studio and the two would work from 11am to 6pm, writing a song per day, for over a month. “I’d never worked so hard,” she says. “Day in, day out, we’d write. After six weeks we had so much music.”

At one stage, Sam gave Megan homework. “He told me, ‘Go home and think about something in your life – something that’s actually happened, but you’ve never written about. Something you believe to be song-worthy. Tomorrow we’re going to write about that.” Megan remembered she had once been engaged. “I’d never really written about it, because I always had held the belief that it was too complex a situation to be contained in three and a half minutes.” That evening though, between glasses of wine and bed, she wrote about having her engagement ring resized.” The song became a key track titled ‘Marry Me’.

I always cringe when creative people talk about breakthrough moments,” she says. “There’s something so clichéd about pretending ‘eureka moments’ happen all the time. In my experience, they don’t. But something about this song – about being connected to the subject, and the terror you’ll get it wrong – was a breakthrough.” Megan and Sam wrote the rest of There There in three weeks, and recorded it over a wet London summer in 2013 at Rak studio in St. Johns Wood, with Megan Washington on keys, Sam Dixon on bass, Stella Mozgawa (Warpaint) on drums and Leo Abraham (Roxy Music) on guitars.

I wrote all the songs I was afraid to write,” she says. “I wrote about living with anxiety, bad sex, being unfaithful, how much I loved the person I was unfaithful to, waking up in hospital, the heart-cracking sadness at the end of a party, being reckless and selfish and losing my best friend. I told the truth, as best I remember.”